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If you missed your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period but you want to sign up for a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, it’s not too late. There are several time periods when you may be able to enroll. Here’s a brief rundown of these opportunities to enroll.
There are two types of Medicare Prescription Drug Plans:
- Stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan
- Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan
The enrollment periods described in this article generally apply to both types of plans.
Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period
Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is generally a seven-month period surrounding the time when you’re first eligible for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B. It typically includes the three months before the month you turn 65, includes your birthday month, and continues for three more months. If you qualify for Medicare under the age of 65, your IEP can be different.
You can sign up for a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan during your IEP, but what if you don’t?
First of all, Medicare prescription drug coverage (under Medicare Part D) is optional. However, if you don’t sign up when you’re first eligible, you could face a Part D late enrollment penalty if you decide to sign up later.
Secondly, there are other opportunities to enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, as described below.
Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and the Fall Open Enrollment Period
Medicare’s Annual Election Period (AEP) is also known as the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage, or the Fall Open Enrollment Period.
During this period, which runs from October 15 to December 7 every year, you can make several different changes to your Medicare coverage – including signing up for a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, and you decide to leave the plan and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you can do this during the annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs January 1 –March 31 each year. During this period, you can also sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan if you had Medicare Advantage. You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Special Enrollment Periods
In some cases, you may be able to sign up for a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan during a Special Enrollment Period. There are several ways you might qualify for such a period; read about them in Can I Delay Medicare Part D Enrollment?
Keep in mind that no matter what Medicare Advantage plan you sign up for, you need to continue paying your Part B premium, along with any premium the plan may have.
It may be a good idea to compare all Medicare Advantage plan costs, not just premium amounts, when you’re shopping for a plan.
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